Kashmir Valley’s rich literacy landscape has over the years witnessed the emergence of a new breed of bards — who use poetry as a matter of faith and a creative expression to capture the prevailing times plagued with protracted problems and pathos.
WHEN Agha Shahid Ali’s ‘A Country Without a Post Office’ got published in 1997, Kashmir suddenly became the poet’s muse and memory for the world to see and explore. The celebrated anthology, for the first time, attempted to globalize the conflict-torn region’s localized agonies through the creative expression of the son of the soil, who went on to inspire a generation of poets in the valley.
Before Shahid, however, the battered landscape had witnessed the rise of many rhymesters who would measure emotions and treacheries of the times with a knack of some iconic literary giants of the world.
In fact, poetry and poets had been an inevitable part of the valley since several generations. Be it the works of classical Kashmiri poets like Lal Ded, Habba Khatoon, Arnimal, or modern literary heavyweights like Amin Kamil, Dinanath Nadim or Rehman Rahi, the poetic voice and its narrators have always canvassed times and lived experiences in the volatile region.
And in the process, they’ve only enriched the coffer of Kashmiri literature.
When his ‘Doad Khatith Guldanan Manz’ (Pain concealed in flower vases) was published in 2006, it caused such a stir that even legendary poet Rehman Rahi had to comment, “At the time of my sunset, it seems sunrise has happened in the shape of Shahnaz Rashid.”
It wasn’t a work of an established poet but rather an aspiring one.
Since then, Rashid, an orchardist and trader by profession, has swept praises for his experiments in prose, form, and metaphors. All these literary devices were missing in modern Kashmiri literature for some time, before Rashid introduced them with new creative touches.
Born in Apple Town, Sopore, Rashid was drawn to poetry after frequenting a local literary organization—which would later influence him to take up Kashmiri as his medium of expression.
His second collection of poems, ‘Door Pahan Dewaran Manz’ (In distant walls) came nearly a decade after his first anthology. It only cemented his place as one of the boldest poetic voices of modern Kashmir.
Born in Anantnag, Nighat chose Kashmiri and Urdu as her medium of expression to challenge the established orders.
Carving her place in the multitude of modern day poets, Nighat’s poems have been published in many renowned prestigious literary magazines.
Her verses reflect pain and agonies of living in a patriarchal world; they challenge the belief system and express ire towards the establishment.
One of her verses powerfully pictures the perpetual pain of enforced disappearances in Kashmir:
Goliv Yim Niey Tim Qabran Maenz Moujoodei
Maajan Yeim Aeis Lari Tal Sawith Tim Koat Gayi
(Bullets took them away, graves devoured them;
ones who lay sleeping beside mothers, where did they go.)
Emerging as a popular literary icon in the valley, Nighat was awarded the Akbar Jaipuri Memorial Award for her contribution to Urdu poetry. Her Kashmiri poetry collection, ‘Zard Paniek Daer’ (Pile of Pallid leaves) received Sahitya Academy Yuva Puraskar in 2017.
Engineer by profession, the poet goes by her penname Rumuz-e-Bekhudi. She’s one of the strongest, active voices from the valley’s literary world.
The versifier started her poetic career by translating Kashmiri poetry of Habba Khatoon, Amin Kamil, Shaad Ramzan and Rehman Rahi into English.
As soon as she devoted herself to poetry writing, her verses reflect self-reliance, empowerment, and struggle amidst the valley’s strife backdrop.
As evident in her verses, her thoughts reflect a strong poetic vision:
Saanay Kasheeray Hind Posh Baagas
Maraan Pholnai Golaab Kaetya
Darbaar Chanay Gardan Jhukaevith
Faqeer Kam Kam Nawaab Kaetya
(In the gardens of our Kashmir
How many roses die without blossoming
In Your darbar, with their heads bowed
So few fakirs; how many Nawabs.)
As a ‘fresh poetic’ voice from the Kashmir Valley, Rumuz has already inspired many young poets.
A native of Srinagar, Uzma Falak is a doctoral fellow at Heidelberg, Germany. Through her poems and essays, she explores the narrative and metaphors of peoples’ history in the valley.
Be it expression of solidarity and pain, remembrance and lamentation, conflict-torn lives and military operations, Uzma has penned down her voice in several Kashmiri-based as well as International publications.
Uzma’s ethnographic poem, ‘Point of Departure,’ won an Honourable Mention in the Society for Humanistic Anthropology’s 2017 Ethnographic Poetry Award.
As a trained journalist, she first rose to prominence with her in-depth human interest stories for an online news portal. As part of the post-2010 creative boom in the valley, her powerful social media poetry feeds would paint the painful plight of Kashmir’s unending tryst with the drawn-out discord.
Some of her remarkable poems beautifully capture the pervasive mood in the valley:
Nameless trees stand intimately,
rooted but almost paralytic, embracing each other
in all seasons
waiting for the bugle
for a final march against tyranny of time
a grand march for flow.
Flowing, flow, flowed.
Syed Zeeshan Jaipuri
A young poet from Kashmir, Syed Zeeshan Jaipuri recites poetry to represent the interests of the native youth.
Grandson of the renowned Urdu poet, Syed Akbar Jaipuri, also known as Mujahid-e-Urdu, Zeeshan inherited love for the language from an early age.
During his school days, massive protests and curfews in the valley, made him engrossed in poetry.
His inclination towards the art form had been heavily influenced by prominent poets like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and the progressive writers’ movement and their ethos.
In the literary circle, Syed Zeeshan is famous for reciting his Urdu Ghazals and poems.
He believes art is the reflection of society and through his Nazm and poems, he pays tribute to his homeland.
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